Sunday, 9 December 2007


Christmas functions are designed to give everyone the chance to get a bit tipsy and bond with each other in a celebratory fashion. But they also present the danger that you will run into someone you’ve been avoiding all year. The woman you yelled at in accounts when you had the hangover from hell and discovered that your expenses for your last lunch had been declined. You’ve had to get off one floor above your office and take the stairs down all year just to avoid walking past her office.
Then there’s the guy in maintenance you pashed behind the air conditioning unit at the last Christmas function when you decided in a moment of enthusiasm that you like men with dirty fingernails and a mullet. If it’s good enough for Cheryl West, it’s choice for you when you’re five rum and Cokes down on an empty stomach. And then there’s the other woman in the office. The one you hate with a passion because she hates you with a passion and you’re both up for the same promotion next year. You won’t spend a second in her breathing space yet alone propel a thin-lipped word of Christmas cheer in her direction.
Avoidance is therefore a necessary skill to obtain prior to Christmas functions. The most common technique is to employ your back. With your back to a person you can create the illusion that you haven’t seen them. You spend your entire night swivelling on an axis rather like a weather vane, only stopping when your subject is safely behind you. Odd but effective. Of course if you are the one being avoided this can be a very strange experience indeed. I was recently “backed” by an editor whose magazine I had been critical of on the radio. I know a bit about magazines, I like to think my criticism is constructive, but you can’t get it right all of the time. On entering the room and joining a group of women I greeted her only to find that she turned to face the wall behind us as if admiring a rare and unique work of art hung there while the rest of us talked in the circle which now had one piece around the wrong way. Only problem was there was no art, just a blank wall so there she was staring at nothing while the rest of the group chatted about the weather, our frizzy hair and how much we planned to drink that day, as you do. The moment I moved on she swivelled back, champagne at the ready.
Another more successful technique is to hide behind pillars which may be dotted throughout the room. You can nonchalantly lean on said pillar and swivel around without looking quite so obvious.
The “excuse me I need another drink” statement is my personal favourite, and the one most commonly employed to avoid me. The person promptly downs the contents of their glass, makes the statement and heads off. Only problem with that one is you risk getting really pissed if you’re avoiding a lot of people. Someone once said to me: “excuse me but I see someone far more interesting I’d rather talk to” and headed off which was brutal but I admired the honesty in their expression.
But by far the most effective avoidance manoeuvre is the intense conversation. It’s similar to the inappropriate kiss they do in movies where a couple who aren’t together, but will be by the end of the movie pash madly so that they are not seen by aliens or FBI agents running past them at great speed. When you see someone you need to ignore heading in your direction you suddenly find the person who is telling you about the cute antics of their two-year-old on the potty so interesting that you simply can’t take your eyes of them, need to lean in with intense interest and laugh like a drain. The impression is that you are so engrossed you can’t possibly notice someone else walking past, or indeed standing next to you. This can also be achieved by talking on the cell phone with an intense attitude which says “I’m buying a million shares in a dairy farm which renders me incapable of recognising anyone.”
But the simplest method in avoidance is simply to avoid the function which has been my policy for many years. I have one night of drinking scheduled and there’s not a magazine editor in sight.

Image by Anthony Ellison

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